It’s January, and we all know what that means. New Years Resolutions. Yeah, those things. A big one floating around this year is starting a bullet journal, mostly for the sake of organization and productivity. Which is absolutely fabulous! But it also comes with the inevitable tweets about how daunting it is and the drooling over the “aesthetic” spreads. Some people are totally wigged out over the perceived effort, and others are jumping in with watercolor supplies.
With all that in mind, I wanted to do a quick post clearing up some misconceptions about bullet journaling. There are a lot of things that keep people from trying it, and I think it’s because social media has kind of developed an idea of what a bujo “should be”. It’s such a flexible system, and it’s important to know what it really is before jumping in.
Myth: It’s basically an art project.
This one I blame Instagram and Pinterest for. A lot of people seem worried that they have to make their bujo into a work of art. But I have to say, that isn’t the case whatsoever.
The original creator of the idea, early on, showed somewhat minimal spreads. A lot of people I follow admit to often being distracted from the content of their spreads because they’re worried the spread won’t be pretty enough. Now, it’s a-OK to want to have a beautiful bullet journal. But the important part is that it works for you. It’s perfectly fine if the spreads have no decoration but a bunch of substance. That’s the most important part. Have minimal spreads. Don’t worry about having gorgeous headers if that isn’t what butters your egg roll or makes you productive.
Remember, the most effective bullet journal is the one that works for you. If you don’t want to put in time decorating it, don’t! You don’t need washi tape, stickers, or any of that if it doesn’t make a sincere difference for you. This is supposed to be personalized, even if that means plain pages. Unless you’re making a beautiful bujo a blog staple of yours, no one else is gonna see the damn thing. Don’t worry if it’s not “100k likes on IG” perfect. If it helps you, it’s perfect.
Myth: Your spreads have to be perfect.
For those of y’all who do want to make things all purrrrrrty, something that freaks out people all the time is the idea of “what if I mess up a spread?”. Here’s a delightful piece of information: if you screw it up, it doesn’t matter. You can white out over it, you can draw over it. You can scratch it out if that does the trick. It is your journal, no one else’s. No one else has to see it.
Feel free to rip out pages, leave the misspelled word, redo the spread if you want. The spreads do not have to be perfect. They have to work.
Myth: Bullet journaling is expensive.
I can totally see where this one came from, and again I blame Instagram and Pinterest. This kind of ties into the idea that the bullet journal is an art project. All you actually need to start a bullet journal is a notebook of your choosing (it does not have to be a Leuchtterm or a Moleskine, surprise), and a pen or pencil. You don’t have to invest in brush pens and washi tape and a $20 notebook. You don’t fucking need it.
If this is something you’d like to spend money on, that’s great! But for a lot of people who simply want to do this for the organizational aspect and want a no bullshit method, you don’t need to throw money at it. Find a cute notebook from your local office supply, a pen that works, and sit down and get it done. If your organizational method is costing you more money than you can reasonably justify, it’s time to change stuff.
Myth: Bullet Journaling is too time consuming.
This is kind of a common thing with “organizational systems”, and it’s something I get sucked into a lot too. It’s just especially prevalent with how personalizable the bullet journal is. You get more worried about the organizational process than the productivity process, then you end up spending more time organizing than producing. And with a bullet journal, the more you decorate and meticulously plan everything, the more time it will take.
If you want to invest time into it, go for it. But you can also make it as quick as you need to in order to make it work for you. If you don’t want to spend an hour every week or so working in it, don’t! You don’t have to use a habit tracker, you don’t have to record every aspect of your life. Record what matters to you, and it’ll be a very efficient system. Take time on the initial set up, but afterwards, it should be quick to use.
Myth: You have to use a bullet journal to be productive.
And last but not least, something to keep in mind. Bullet journals are an amazing system, and they’re great for a lot of people! But if you don’t use a bullet journal, and you think you’re missing out, you probably aren’t. This is a great system but it’s not for everyone. Some aspects are really nice, but for others the extensive personalization isn’t a perfect fit. Agendas are a great option too, as are Filofaxes or planners you can get at Walmart.
This isn’t the only way to be productive. This isn’t the only way to manage your time or your projects. Try different systems and see what works for you. I tried an Erin Condren planner, and while it didn’t stick for me, I got my mom started on it. I tried bullet journaling, but using a hardbound notebook didn’t suit me. I’m now using a Filofax and I’ve never been so productive.
Try new things, and personalize things your way. Take inspiration from social media if you’d like, but if it isn’t Pinterest-perfect, don’t stress. Make things yours. It’s okay if it’s not what everyone else is doing. Anything you see about what a bullet journal “should be”, probably isn’t true. Do what works for you. That’s the best system you can use.